Redskins’ issues start at the top

Redskins Personnel Washington Commanders

The Redskins sit at 3-10 with three weeks left to go, and there is a real possibility that they end up at 3-13 for the 2nd straight season. Much of the fan ire appears to be pointed at first year head coach Jay Gruden, and while some of it is deserved he shouldn’t be the one held most accountable. The person who deserves the lion’s share of the blame (other than Dan Snyder but we can’t fire him) is President and General Manager Bruce Allen. Allen had played 2nd fiddle to Mike Shanahan over the past 4 seasons, but with the coaches departure this offseason he decided to promote himself to head of personnel duties as opposed to bringing in a top scouting/personnel mind from another organization (or promoting from within). This has led to the Redskins having perhaps one of their least productive offseasons (which is saying something) in recent memory.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way as the Redskins were finally out of the cap penalty (though Mike Shanahan did leave them with some bad contracts to deal with), and they could be more aggressive on the FA market. This was supposed to be the year that really jump started the Redskins and got them to progress going forward. Instead these moves set the Redskins back going forward and their record hasn’t seen any sort of improvement. Here is a look at some of the Redskins moves and how it worked out for them:

Wide Receiver: Signed Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson

-Roberts was a good initial signing by the Redskins on paper as they didn’t need a big free agent splash with Pierre Garcon manning one wide receiver spot. With the Redskins not figuring to be a major passing team they didn’t need to get into the Eric Decker or Golden Tate markets. Roberts  should have served as a solid number 2 receiver for the Redskins on paper at what looked to be a fair contract and price. Roberts hasn’t lived up to that billing though perhaps it’s not entirely his fault given that he hasn’t had the opportunities.

Later in the free agency period DeSean Jackson was released and the Redskins decided to bring him into the fold as another weapon. While Jackson has been great, it now means that the Redskins are spending way too much money on the receiver group. What makes it even worse is it’s not a diverse receiver group with guys of really varying different skill sets or that can really complement each other. Jackson is the best of the bunch, but a lot of routes that he’s good at are routes that Garcon and Roberts could do as well, and it forces them to do things they aren’t as strong at. Jackson’s presence will likely force the Redskins to look to move Garcon this offseason.

While the Redskins couldn’t predict that Jackson would end up being released, they spent way too much money on a position group that just doesn’t return a major impact unless you are a team that throws the ball 650 times a year or have an elite pocket QB. Neither applies to the Redskins so the value of the receivers is clearly lessened. Also by signing Jackson late the Redskins aren’t going to have money to carryover to their cap this year, which will lessen what they can do in this free agency period.

Offensive line: Signed Shawn Lauvao, retained Kory Lichtensteiger, Tyler Polumbus and Chris Chester

Shawn Lauvao was a starting guard in Cleveland and was hitting free agency at a pretty young age. Without knowing how he did in Cleveland one would think that he would have a robust free agent market. So the Redskins giving him one of the highest paid interior lineman deals this offseason would make sense. Unfortunately it made zero sense because Lauvao really struggled in Cleveland and was not highly thought of as he entered the free agent market. Whether you looked at how the Browns fans/bloggers/beat writers viewed Lauvao, took a look at advanced stats, or analysts (some of whom were former front office guys), Lauvao was widely considered to be one of the worst free agent guards on the open market. Given his age someone was going to take a shot on him, but ideally it would be a cheap, short term deal without a guarantee that he’d be a starter. The Redskins thought otherwise and opened up their check book for Lauvao, and he has been just as bad as everyone else feared. This has been a major bust for the Redskins and will cost them either a dead money hit or dead weight on the roster.

For the rest of the line the Redskins decided to trot out four returning starters, with the only competition being cheap free agents, incumbent back-ups or rookies. This was just a really bad strategy as outside of Trent Williams this group of returning starters is really bad. Most teams would have looked at the production of these players and their salary cap hits and made the decision to cut bait with them to clear up the cap going forward. Chester and Polumbus in particular could have saved the Redskins a good chuck of money that could have either been invested in other linemen or saved to use on the cap this year. Instead the Redskins kept all three and their play has been very suspect to say the least. Not only is it continued bad play from this group, but it is  another waste of money.

Defensive Line: Re-signed Chris Baker, Signed Jason Hatcher, Signed Clifton Geathers, Restructured Stephen Bowen

The Redskins made a smart re-signing in bringing back Chris Baker on a solid contract. Baker isn’t a star player and is never going to carry the unit, but overall he gives good snaps and is a pretty solid run defender. This really could be one of the better moves of the front office, which is a pretty bad sign of where this team is overall. Clifton Geathers was a cheap signing to bolster the DL depth, he stuck around for a little while, but didn’t do much. No real harm here, but he also didn’t help either.

Jason Hatcher was the big offseason signing and he was supposed to bolster the Redskins pass rush. He was coming off a strong 3 seasons, including a break-out, Pro Bowl year in 2013 (albeit in a 4-3 defense). Hatcher was a late bloomer and already over 30 making him a risk for a long term high money deal. This is particularly an issue for a team that probably isn’t ready to compete. The Redskins ignored the warning signs and made him one of the offseason’s highest paid defensive linemen, giving him a big money 5 year deal. Hatcher has been good, but he’s not living up to this contract and given that the Redskins don’t look any closer to competing it’s going to be tough to justify this deal.

As for Stephen Bowen, the Redskins re-structured his deal for this season as he was high priced and coming off a late season micro-fracture surgery, unfortunately they didn’t do anything in regards to his 2015 cap hit. So while they did reduce his 2014 number, the Redskins will still have to pay money in 2015 for cutting him. Had they cut him last year (and if you really wanted him back re-sign him at a league min rate) it would have been better long term.

Linebacker: Franchised Brian Orakpo, re-signed Perry Riley, Signed Adam Hayward, Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan

The signings of Hayward, Sharpton and Jordan were cheap and while they didn’t work out it is hard to fault the Redskins too much here.

As for the Redskins big move to Franchise Orakpo while it’s been very disappointing, it was still the right thing to do. Though Orakpo’s injuries this year shortened his season and limited his effectiveness the Redskins couldn’t have let him walk this offseason for nothing. He was coming off a very good year, was sub-30 years old and played the premium position on defense. To let him walk without compensation is not a smart move for a team. Now obviously this backfired on the Redskins and hurt them because it was a significant cap hit for below average production, but there wasn’t another pass rusher they could have signed to replace Orakpo, and the only benefit would have been the saving of the money.

Perry Riley was even worse of a move for the Redskins because while he didn’t make big money like Orakpo, the Redskins did give him a multi-year deal and pay him despite the fact that he’s never showed anything above average production. He was a big liability on defense for the Redskins the year before, and they rewarded him by paying him more money and giving him more years. He’s a young player so you hope that it clicks with him at some point, but it’s tough to improve a bad defense when you bring back struggling players and pay them more.

Defensive backs: re-signed DeAngelo Hall, re-signed Brandon Meriweather, signed Ryan Clark, signed Tracy Porter

Re-signing Hall was the right move as while he maybe wasn’t going to have as strong of a year that he had in 2013 again, he was signed at a reasonable rate and would hopefully help break in some of the young corners. Hall wasn’t playing at a high level when he was injured, but his loss is still a big one for the Redskins. Coming off two Achilles injuries, the Redskins don’t know what they will have in Hall next year. This contract could cost them some dead money if they need to end up cutting Hall, but it was still the right move at the time.

Bringing back Meriweather was not so much a smart move. Meriweather was a major liability last year and his head hunting tactics made him a target for league punishment. Given his erratic play he wasn’t what you would consider a good mentor for young safeties, and he’s not a great stop gap option because he looks to be a guy you just can’t count on. The signing of Ryan Clark was a similarly odd move, not that he was expected to be a star, but just given that the Redskins brought in two stop gaps to a position that desperately needed an influx of talent and production. If the Redskins had maybe brought in a young safety early in the draft it may have made some sense, but they didn’t they ignored the position completely and instead relied on Phillip Thomas (coming off an injury) and Bacarri Rambo (coming off an awful year) as the “next wave”. Neither was a real waste of major resources, but combined it’s a pathetic effort to bolster a major weakness on defense.

The Redskins other free agent signing for the secondary was signing Tracy Porter to a two year deal. The Redskins needed a 3rd corner, particularly a guy to work the slot and they settled on Porter for that role. Though Porter has had some good production in the past, he’s struggled to stay healthy and has really been inconsistent throughout his career. Bringing him in was risky enough, but giving him a two year deal was a really bad decision by this front office.



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